Riding Indiana 2015: A Tour de Corn Vacation

Henry-County-Corn-Rows

Not the Tour de Corn ride that’s an annual Missouri event – this Tour de Corn is my own annual vacation activity in East Central Indiana.  Every year my family drives up to Indiana for a visit at the farm and, since 2012, I’ve been taking a bike and riding around the local farmland on chipseal backcountry roads and, lately as the economy has continued to worsen, on roads unpaved that were formerly paved. 

Here are my previous posts about riding through Indiana’s corn and soybean country.  Ordinarily, once I get back to Stepford, I spend a lot of time writing up Indiana ride reports, illustrating them with pictures.  This year, I think I’ll spend only a little time writing a brief narrative framework for the illustrations.  If you click on an image posted here, you’ll be shown a (usually) bigger version of the picture in its own page.

Bike Choice

Because the weather projected for our nine days stay was a good chance of rain every day, and because I remembered how the Miyata, shod with Gatorskins, was not best suited for unpaved and formerly paved surfaces encountered last year, this year I took the Jamis Supernova rain-and-rough-bike with its recently installed Clement X’Plor USH tires

Speaking of the X’Plor USH tires, the people at Clement never did respond to my email about inverted tread patterning.

This year, I noticed I was not taking pictures of things that formerly interested me on previous cycling jaunts.  Some of the novelty of riding through miles and miles of farmland, as well as upon a dedicated Rails to Trails Greenway, has worn off.  This year, in several Indiana counties, gigantic windmills are turning, and I observed them across the state, during my visit.  Their construction was last year responsible for the poor state of some of the farm roads, but it appears that compensation to municipalities for the repair of roads may have been diverted to other uses.  As I said, the worsening economy in the United States has a real effect at ground-level.

Greenway 500 Bike Shop

On the day I rode to Prairie Creek Reservoir, I stopped by Greenway 500 bike shop, near the Medford trailhead of the Cardinal Greenway Trail, to see if Mike had time to diagnose and correct a problem with the Supernova’s Ultegra front derailleur.  Turns out it got a bit bent one of the times I crashed the bike.  While I was there, shop discussion centered on the bad effect large, online retailers have on local bike shops – difficulty selling new bikes, difficulty competing with accessory and garment prices.  One of the other customers in the shop that day talked about a friend who makes a living writing reviews and who receives, as additional benefits, all-expenses-paid travel to annual events showcasing new products, bikes, etc.  The consensus seemed to be that in order to continue writing reviews in exchange for money and products (which the reviewers may get to keep and sell), the reviewer’s likely to turn out little more useful than positive ad-copy.

I don’t feel badly about buying from Nashbar/Performance, Bike Tires Direct, Jenson USA, Amazon, etc., because I don’t have a local bike shop at Stepford.  On the other hand, while riding in the Greater Muncie area, out of deference for the several bike shops in the area, but especially Mike’s, I mostly refrained from wearing my BTD jersey.

Where’d I Go?

This year, I didn’t ride into Muncie for lunch at Chic-Fil-A; I thought it would be a good idea to avoid any Obama-inspired interracial strife in that depressed, formerly industrial, urban locality.  Anyway, I wanted to ride through areas that were new to me, as opposed to repeating what I’d done in prior years.  That said, as far as I know, there were no Obama Race Riots during June/July at Muncie.

I think I rode eight of the nine days we stayed at the farm logging about 239 miles, according to Magellan Cyclo 505.  That works out to just under 30 miles per day.  A lot of riding, for me, not so much for a serious cyclist.  Of course, some days my rides were much longer, and others much shorter.  I rode MKS Lambda pedals wearing 5-10 “Canvas Guide Tennies”, and wore my usual motley collection of lycra cycling attire.  One day the temperature was sufficiently cool that I rode wearing my orange merino wool Kucharik long-sleeve jersey with bib-shorts, and was quite comfortable.  My other Kucharik garment was a “sublimated” bib-short I’d got on sale last year – a satisfactory purchase that compares favorably to the Sugoi bib-shorts I bought back in 2012.

Because temps most days were in the low to mid-seventies, I drank plain water on my rides.  Except the day I forgot my water bottles and realized it about three or four miles into the ride.  Then, I stopped and got bottles of Gatorade at a gas-station, filling one with water at lunch after I’d drunk the original contents. 

Farming Disaster

While the lower temperatures, overcast skies, and occasional rain were a treat for me, the wet conditions this season have been disastrous for many of Indiana’s farmers.  At the farm, there are about a hundred acres that could not be planted with soybeans as intended, as well as many ponded places in the beanfields that had only dried enough for planting while we were visiting.  The corn was mostly small and an unhealthy yellow-green in color.  The fields had been so wet that no side-dressing had been done when we arrived, and by the time we left, only a smaller percentage had been done.  In former times (1950’s ?) the adage had been, “Knee High by the Fourth of July.”  But corn that’s only knee high by the Fourth of July these days indicates the likelihood of a meagre harvest.  By July 4, the corn’s usually more than head-high and a healthy, dark green in color.

Animals

During my rides I saw numerous chipmunks, maybe three rabbits, several red-wing blackbirds, several large sparrow-looking birds, several bright-yellow finches, several cardinals, many geese, a woodpecker, a deer, a small herd of longhorn cattle, one small groundhog, dead possums, dead raccoons, dead field mice, and got chased by five dogs.

Snapshots

Although I took photos every day I rode, many are so similar that I’m only posting snapshots from a few rides.  Here are some of the pictures I took during the week, in rough order:

Summit Lake State Park

This year, thanks to the Magellan Cyclo 505, I was able to find the lake; I wasn’t even close, last year.  Many of the Henry County roads were unpaved, but reasonably well-maintained.  The Clement X’Plor USH tires handled these conditions very well – much better than the Gatorskins did last year while riding the Miyata 610.  Summit Lake State Park has camping areas, regularly scheduled activities, much less boat traffic than Prairie Creek Reservoir, and much more user-friendly beach area, as well as several well-maintained playgrounds.  Nicer, all around, than Prairie Creek Reservoir.

Henry-County-Sign-&-RoadTypical-Henry-County-RoadPuny-Henry-County-Corn

Found-Summit-Lake

Summit-LakeFlooded-State-Park-Road

Lakeside-Trail-1Lakeside-Trail-2Henry-County-Animal

Prairie Creek Reservoir

This year, I only rode out to Prairie Creek Reservoir one time.  I was disappointed not to find Cave Baby Smokers set up for the coming weekend’s triathlon, but my ride was pretty early in the week.  Muncie Sailing Club’s water was on, so I was able to refill one of my water bottles from their pavilion’s spigot.  This year, I noticed that mountain-bike and ATV trails have been opened up around the lake’s western shoreline; maybe I’ll ride them next year.  While at Greenway500 Bike Shop, I meant to buy a set of cleats for Shimano SPD pedals I haven’t tried out, yet.  Also, wanted to buy some cycling togs to replace my aging collection of same – and I like Greenway500 and Dirtway500 kits Mike’s got for sale.  Justifying the expense of new cycling clothes to Caution-Lady, however, was something I didn’t feel like tackling last week.

International-Harvester-BarnMuncie-Sailing-Club-SignSailing-Club-Lighthouse

Lake-Route-House

Richmond & Rain

Welcome-to-Richmond

This year I returned to Richmond for lunch at 5th Street Coffee & Bagels – a long ride and much of it on the Cardinal Greenway trail.  About three miles in to my ride, I realized I hadn’t brought my water bottles with me.  When I got to Losantville, I stopped at the gas station and bought a couple of 28 oz bottles of Gatorade Citrus Cooler and an egg, cheese, bacon, lettuce, onion, and tomato breakfast wrap.  That breakfast wrap was HUGE and highly recommended for a long ride.  The Gatorade bottles just fit, when I forced them, into the Supernova’s bottle cages.  They were too difficult to pull out and stow back to drink from while riding, not to mention the screw-to-tighten lids, so I drank pretty sparingly.  Had a fried egg, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion bagel sandwich at 5th Street Coffee & Bagels. 

Richmond-Coffee-&-Bagels

For this ride, I’d mapped a route at www.ridewithgps.com and exported it as a GPX Track (or some such type of file), then followed the Ride With GPS instructions for installing the file on the Magellan Cyclo 505.  Pretty easy and it worked fine until the last couple of blocks before getting to the coffee shop.  Then it routed me up and down a block here and a block there.  I followed the directions to see what it would do, then got bored with the activity and asked a neighborhood person for directions.  Her directions were accurate and I rode to the coffee shop and ordered lunch.  On the ride back, I got rained on a lot.  Once I accepted the annoyance as unavoidable I found it was not at all uncomfortable and rode without mishap or problem.  My Magellan Cyclo 505 unit, however, had a lot of trouble.  In the rain, it’s touch screen became ENTIRELY unresponsive, and that was an annoyance I was unable to accept.  I was only able to get it to work again after drying the screen with a piece of toilet paper from a trailhead outhouse.  After that, I left the stats screen alone.

Soybeans, corn, and wheat looked better in Wayne County than in the counties further north.

Some of the pictures I liked best from the Indiana trip were from the rainy segment of this ride – I couldn’t get the camera’s lens totally cleared of water drops, but was not able to see in the LCD screen how the water distorted the image.

Almost-to-RichmondGreenway-Bridge-View

Richmond-Greenway-Sculpture

Richmond-Trailhead-View-1Richmond-Trailhead-View-2

Wayne-County-CourthouseRichmond-Old-House-A

Richmond-Old-House-BRichmond-Old-House-C

Rain-Blurred-1Rein-Blurred-2

Rain-Blurred-3Rain-Blurred-4

SoybeansWayne-County-CornWheat-For-Harvest

Tree-TunnelTree-Tunnel-Other-Side

Winchester Ride

This year, instead of riding to Selma, Farmland, Muncie, and getting bad lost in Henry County, I rode out to Winchester, Indiana.  I’ve previously posted snapshots of the county seat’s interesting American Civil War memorial.  That time, I drove through Winchester after buying a canoe in Ohio.  Last week, however, I spent time riding around what turns out to be an attractive small city (about 5000 residents, I think).  I enjoyed riding through the older neighborhoods networked with rough paved alleys.  My approach to Winchester routed me along some of the worst formerly-paved and badly potholed-but-paved roads I’ve seen.  The Supernova with X’Plor USH tires more than compensated for the horrible condition of the roads, though. 

Civil-War-MemorialLet-it-RingCourthouse-Eaves

Tank-LeanMeridian-Street-HouseWestwood-House

Courthouse-SquareGreen-Building-SideStreet

Lost-FarmhouseLost Farmhouse Arial View

Patriot-BarnFarm-GateRibbon-of-Road

LonghornStrataWind-Farm

WindmillWindmill-18094Windmill's-Blades

 

Indiana Tour de Corn 2013

Panoramic-View

For the second year running, I took a bicycle with me on our annual trip to visit my wife’s family in rural Indiana.  I also piled paddling gear in the car, too, but the weather forecast indicated cooler temperatures and a good deal of rain which contraindicated much likelihood my wife would herself or would allow our boy to accompany me on a river float in the 17’ aluminum canoe named Caution-Lady.  Although I’m not certain my paddling days are over, I have spent a great many more pedaling since buying my first adult bike a couple of years ago.

This year, as I mentioned in the previous post, I have a much better grasp of the rural geography of the environs around my wife’s family home.  Additionally, this year, I have an Apple Iphone – one of the cheap 8 gig devices my wireless provider was giving away last winter to spur data-plan sales, but still way cooler than the flip-phone I’d had for seven or so years.  Even though Apple Maps don’t always work, they’d suffice to keep me from getting totally lost like I did last year.  In addition to the Iphone’s Apple Maps, I’ve got a paid app, Cyclemeter, that usefully tracks distance, speed, elevation, ascent, descent, calories burned, and has a pretty good map feature, all using the phone’s GPS.  Sure, it’s a spy in my seatbag, but if it makes me mad, I can destroy it by emptying a clip into it.  Practically speaking, however, I am not at present too freaked out about it.

Indiana by Counties

The Razesa had a flat the morning we left Stepford, so I took the Miyata, a bike I generally only ride in fair weather; in fact, I’ve pretty well named the bike Fairweather.  As noted elsewhere, the Miyata is a 610 touring model – a mid-range bike manufactured in 1981.  It has a complete Suntour grupo with stem-shift “Power Shifters” that have a ratcheting feel to them as they are used to index-shift.  All though Rivendell claims their downtube shift levers (which replaced the Simplex shifters on my Razesa) are better than the Suntour Power Shifters, that is mere sales puffing as the Rivendell product is inferior in terms of feel and accuracy. 

Although mostly original, the Miyata’s factory saddle was long since lost by the time I purchased the bike from Mike Carroll of Old Bikes Belong.  The day I bought the bike, Mike installed a Selle Italia saddle racing saddle I’d brought along, but it proved unsatisfactory and I quickly replaced it with a hideous red and black mountain-bike saddle.  Although strangely ugly, the newer saddle quickly became less visually disturbing because I noticed the red trim matched the Dia Compe center-pull brake’s red trim.

Mongoose-SaddleB4-Stepford-Storm

Regarding the name, Fairweather, it was one of a fictional monk’s five friends, as I recall from a novel I read for a Church History class in seminary back in the 1990’s.  Fairweather and Tune were a pair of snakes that, if I recall this correctly, shared the monk’s hermitage until, in an act of penitence, the man banished so he could bear his guilt alone.  None of that has anything to do with the fact that I generally try to ride the Miyata in fair weather – I’m trying to keep it in as near-new condition as possible yet still ride it regularly.   A few weeks ago on a short ride in the area around my house, I did get caught riding the Miyata in a thunderstorm, so got over worry about getting the bike wet and dirty.

My father-in-law thinks Tennessee’s rural scenery has “the Wow Factor” in spades, but I am of the opinion that Indiana’s farmland is no less beautiful.  I think Jim’s so used to his surroundings that he does not “feel” the Wow to a conscious degree any longer.  I’ve taken rides for six of the nine days spent at the farm but have taken fewer pictures while riding than I did last year.  This is in part due to my reliance upon the Iphone as my primary camera (although I took the Pentax with me on Monday 1 July with indifferent to bad results). 

Greenway-500-Fuji-Cambridge

Most of my Indiana rides this year have been greater than 30 miles; all but two greater than 20.  I stopped in a couple of times at Greenway 500 Bike Shop – Mike identified the snick-snick sound my bike was making as a worn-out pedal I might make right by the application of grease to its inner workings.  He has a Fuji Cambridge with eight-speed internally geared rear hub and dynamo front hub that I coveted.  Mike wouldn’t swap it for the Miyata saying he already had enough old bikes, but I would have swapped.  I did take the Fuji for a spin and liked it very well.  For $1100, it could have been mine, but the wrath of my wife would also have been mine.

On my first long ride, I stopped in at a gas-station mini market and bought a sausage/cheese/fried-egg biscuit and two quarts of Powerade (not as good as Gatorade, but available at “Two for $2”); on two other occasions, I stopped by the lakeside tent set up by Rob Cline and family – Cave-Baby Smokers, and again purchased and ate sausage/egg and egg/cheese biscuits to fortify my constitution during my travels.  The first day I met Rob and his son, and the following day, Rob and his wife, Holly.  My photos of the Cline family and their smokehouse tent can be seen HERE.  What follows are some of the photos I took while riding rural Indiana – click on a picture for a larger image.

First-Lunch-StopSpokesRoad-I-Took

Road-Not-TakenSea-of-CornPinch

Muncie-Sailing-ClubNew-Burlington-UMCIndiana-Chip-&-SealIndiana-Farmland

Sky-High-by-4th-of-July

Cave-Baby Breakfasts

Just a quick post.  Last year, while riding the Indiana cornfields near Muncie in record-breaking, triple-digit heat, I survived getting badly lost after taking a wrong turn on the way out of Blountsville, in part because I had the good sense to impulse-buy and eat a fried-egg and cheese biscuit from Rob Cline of Cave-Baby Smokers.  This year, even though I’ve got a better grasp of the local geography, I again stopped by the tent Rob’s set up at Prairie Creek Reservoir both yesterday and today to visit and eat fried-egg biscuits; yesterday’s with cheese and today’s with a burger-sized sausage patty.  Good eating and jus the thing for those 30 to 40 mile rides through farmland on chip-and-seal roads.

Rob-Cline-&-Son Cave-Baby-SmokehouseHolly-&-Rob-Cline

So, if you’re out there any time over the next couple of weeks, stop in, say “Hello,” and get something to eat.  The Clines serve lunch, as well, and cater large events.

Tour de Corn – Riding Indiana, Part One

Thunderstorm
Thunderstorm

We arrived and unpacked about midday Saturday last, but I was tired and conked out for about three hours, awoke long enough to feed, and conked-out again until Sunday morning.  Sunday morning, we went to a First Church worship service that was, essentially, a wrap-up program for the previous week’s Children’s Church.  It featured singing, slide-shows, demonstrations, talks, and so on.  Surprisingly, I found it uplifting.  We ate lunch at a Mexican restaurant with a family from the congregation and then returned to the farm.

By late afternoon, Sunday, I was ready to take a bike ride.  We carried the Razesa on a two-bicycle Yakima trailer-hitch rack.  In addition to the usual paddling gear (because I’ve got a canoe in the barn loft), I’d packed my cycling gear (helmet, gloves, sunglasses, rack-bag, shoes) and brought it along for the trip.  My normal cycling costume consists of whatever I happen to be wearing, plus helmet, gloves, sunglasses (to keep the bugs out of my eyes) and, sometimes, cycling shoes.  Ready to ride, I checked the weather radar on the National Weather Service website.  Thunderstorm warnings and matching red-and-yellow spots on the screen to the north and east of us, but I thought moving slowly enough that I could ride out and back before the storm got this far.

I rode down to the main highway running between here and four-way stop four miles away where there is a trailhead for the Cardinal Greenway bike path. While I’d prefer to see the nation have useful passenger rail, and sufficient industry to require regular freight trains to carry it, I think using an abandoned rail line for a long bike path is a cool idea. So, I rode the almost five miles between here and the four-way stop as the sky overhead grew increasingly cloudy and the wind became stronger.  The photo above I shot from astride the Razesa from the greenway.

On the greenway, I rode no more than a mile or so toward the storm and began hearing the booms of thunder that heralded the approaching storm, then observed lightning striking to the north 10 to 15 miles distant.    Thought maybe it’d be a good idea to turn around and ride back to the house, and did so. Riding maybe 12 miles per hour, the storm overtook me. Wind, the first drops of a much-needed rain struck me as I rode. More thunder. Lighting strikes about four miles off in the direction I needed to ride.  Thinking about Martin Luther, repentance, and the manner in which electrocution might effect various organs rendering them possibly unfit for donation, I looked for places along the highway to wait out the storm, but kept riding.  I only had to make about five miles to the house.  I rode on.

By the time I turned on to the road with less than a mile to pedal, the storm acting up right overhead.  Thunder, wind, rain, lightning strikes in a field by some woods about a mile and a half distant.  I thought about turning in to the barn lot and waiting it out in the barn, but with less than half a mile to go, I kept pedaling.   I cut a corner across the front lawn and rode straight to the open garage where I met my wife, keys in hand, who said she’d was just about to come looking for me.

Monday Greenway Ride

Monday morning, for the first time ever, I ventured out of doors wearing the cycling garb I purchased for the purpose of wearing while cycling, but which I’d never before had the nerve to wear.  But, in the wilds of corn-belt where I am completely unknown and where temperatures have been in the triple digits, I squeezed my middle-aged physique into the bib shorts and cycling jersey, put on my cycling shoes, and set off again for the greenway.  The highway has a shoulder about a foot or two wide; motorists seemed to give me an additional three or so feet when passing, so no problem.

Michael-O'Neil

This time, I rode much further – as far as the Medford or Prairie Creek trailhead adjacent to which is Michael O’Neil’s Greenway 500 bike shop where I bought a couple of water bottles.  I’d forgotten mine at home in Tennessee.  Michael’s an interesting guy – friendly and positive in an impersonal and distracted-seeming way.  He said he grew up in a rural Massachusetts community with population less than 4000; pedaled across the country five times; worked at a Memphis bike shop; has been working on bikes for 22 years.  I had the impression he is quick-witted, high-IQ-smart and is aware of his areas of deficient knowledge and may tend not to make assumptions about people.  Excellent qualities for a small business owner to have.  I liked him and his bike shop, returning there several times during my stay at the farm.

Blountsville-SignCaine's

Blue-FlowersCampsis-Radicans

I rode past Blountsville and on into Losantville where I posed my bike next to a colorful but out-of-business bar.  Along the greenway I saw a number of wild-flowers – unidentified blue flowers and campsis radicans – the wildflower that gave its name to the Pouch E68 I gave to my friend, Eric, in January of this year.  I returned to Blountsville several times during the week, a very small town that put me in mind of Starnesville, even though I don’t think the small town was ever home to any industrial concern, to speak of.  Nevertheless, it apparently once had a grain elevator that was served by rail – the line abandoned to make the greenway

Tuesday – Lost in the Corn Maze

Greenway-MapBridge-BikeBridge-View

Corn-RowsAbandoned

I planned a longer ride for Tuesday – I wanted to ride around a small lake near Muncie – a 13.5 mile ride, in addition to the distance of the ride out there and back.  My goal was to ride the main highway to the greenway, then to the Medford trailhead, then over to Prairie Creek Reservoir (that body of water visible to the right of the greenway’s diagonal on the map, above), around the lake, and then back to a point where I reckoned I could ride country lanes across to the farm.  I missed 500 S, the road from which the lake is best accessible from Hwy. 35, and rode between three and four miles out of my way until I realized my mistake and turned back around.  That was my first and least serious missed turn of the day.  If you click on the greenway trail map above at left, you should be able to discern 500 S and the route I pedaled around the lake.

Counting my circuit around the lake, I thought I’d make about 33 to 35 miles round-trip back to the farm, making Tuesday’s ride my longest to date.  I stopped whenever I wanted to take a picture.

Three-Window-BarnMethodist-Church-Bldg

Prairie-Creek-ReservoirWater-Tree-BikeRed-Barns

I almost laughed when I saw the manner in which the pavement from one to about four o’clock around the reservoir had been patched.  “It’s a miracle!” I thought, noting the crazy lines of black tar on the roads’ cracked surfaces resembled Arabic script.  Around by the public access beach and marina, I was pretty hungry, but didn’t want to eat any of the six generic fig-newton cookies I’d brought along to supplement my Gatorade.

As I rode by the Dry Dock Marina, I saw a guy cooking something under a tent on the grass between the road and the building.  He hollered at me, “We’ve got water!”  I hollered back, “What’ve you all got to eat?” and rode up to the tent to find out.  Probably the smartest thing I did Tuesday morning, considering what happened later, was to buy a fried egg-and-cheese biscuit from the vendor, Rob Cline, of Cave Baby Smokers.  I hung out and talked with Rob a bit about how he got started and listened to his ambitious plans for future expansion.  I wish him happy and debt-free providence in his improvisational vocational endeavors.  Almost ready to get back on the road, a couple on a blue tandem bicycle pedaled by and waved.

Finishing my ride around the lake back at 500 S, I stopped at the bike shop and refilled one of my water bottles – a tie for smartest thing I did that day.  Also in the shop was the couple who’d ridden by on the tandem – Michael was making some adjustment to the bike and the couple and he were talking interestingly about tandem bike rallies or events they’d ridden.

Wrong-Turn

I thought I’d have an easy ride back to the farm once on the greenway, and planned to ride cross-country, as opposed to the main highway intersecting 35, to get there.  I took the road pictured in the photograph above because, after having got turned around a little bit and having failed to really STUDY the map the previous evening, the road FELT like it was running in the right direction.  I conservatively estimate it took me 12 to 16 miles out of my way, and I know I pedaled through parts of three counties before I entered the right county and began to find my way.  Hungry again, I ate three of the fig newton cookies in the rack bag and drank about 12 ounces of water from the bottle I’d refilled.  At point where I took the photograph below, I don’t know how many miles later but reckoning I had only about four or five miles left until I arrived at the farm, I ate the rest of the cookies and drank most of the remaining Gatorade.

Almost-Back